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Brauron, in the ancient times called Vrauron, situated on the east coast of Attica, was one of the oldest sacred-places in Greece, where the goddess of nature and the protector of fertility and childbirth, Artemis was worshipped.
The present form of this sacred place exists from the 5th century BCE, when it was rebuilt above the earlier structures. The temple of the goddess Artemis, the shrine of Iphigenia located amongst the rocks, the Sacred House which was the residence of the priestess and a monumental propylon with the so called "Stoa of the Bears" were constructed at this period. According to some opinions part of this stoa (in the NW) was the residence for some children (5 - 10 years old girls), who served in the sanctuary.
These small girls were called arktoi ("the bears"), commemorating the mythical story about the sacred female-bear of Artemis, killed by the brother of one of these girls, serving in the sanctuary. Due to this reason arktoi were also wearing the clothes of crocus color, to remember an appearance of this sacred animal. Finally, during the festivities in honor of the goddess Artemis, the young girls were performing the sacred dances disguised as bears.
Many statuettes of children representing "the bears," were discovered in this place and they can be seen in the museums (Museum Brauron, British Museum London). The sculptors were also depicting the children taking a part in the cult of the goddess Artemis and the vase-painters were picturing arktoi, learning music, teaching dancing and rhythm courses.
The cult of Artemis Brauronia connected the coastal (rural) sanctuary at Brauron with another (urban) sanctuary on the acropolis in Athens, the Brauroneion, from which there was a procession every four years during the Arkteia festival
Votive dedications at the sanctuary include a number of statues of young children of both sexes, as well as many items pertaining to feminine life, such as jewelry boxes and mirrors. Large numbers of miniature kraters (krateriskoi) have been recovered from the site, many depicting young girls — either nude or clothed — racing or dancing
The cult of Artemis Brauronia connected the coastal (rural) sanctuary at Brauron with another (urban) sanctuary on the acropolis in Athens, the Brauroneion, from which there was a procession every four years during the Arkteia festival.
Cult activity is known from the 8th century BCE forward from dedications in the sacred spring, and a temple was built in the 6th century BCE
The unfortified site continued in use until the 3rd century BCE, when tensions between Athens and the Macedonians caused it to be abandoned, perhaps after the site was damaged in a flood.
At the isolated sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron, young Athenian girls approaching marriageable age formed groups consecrated for a time to Artemis as arktoi, she-bears, and spent their time in sacred dances, wearing honey-colored saffron robes, running races and making sacrifice. Vase paintings show that cultic nudity was an element in these preparations for womanhood. An epigram in the Anthologia Graeca concerns the offerings of childish playthings a nubile young girl dedicates to Artemis on the eve of marriage
Cups with two handles are called krateriskos and particular to Brauron.
The cups are decorated with the paintings of girls dancing, running, or engaging in cult activities. These girls should be arktoi, the girls staying at the sanctuary to be guided by Artemis.
A normally dull star in Ursa Major, the Great Bear constellation, give off an incredible flare while scientists watched, increasing its brightness 15-fold in just three minutes, before returning to normal